Starz is no stranger to headline making sex scenes. Last year, the premium network gave us near-magical full-frontal male nudity and the kind of sex where a woman swallowed men whole with her vagina over the course of American Gods season 1. Similarly, Outlander first gained notoriety thanks to just how genuinely sexy its time traveling boots knocking happened to be. Now, Starz gives us Vida, a Latinx family dramedy about two sisters dragged back to their East L.A. neighborhood after the death of their mother.
While that premise is decidedly unsexy, Vida’s Sunday night series premiere offered viewers one of the most sensual initial sex acts of a TV show ever. The first time we see sex on this series, it’s with a man going down on the girl who got away, seemingly multiple times, resident free spirit Lyn Hernandez (Melissa Barrera). Although the moment isn’t aided by the sci-fi visuals essential to shows like American Gods and Outlander, it is wildly realistic — and that’s what makes it so very special. So special, it’ll probably stay with your for weeks if you’re anything like me, who binged Vida season 1 at the beginning of April, when it was made available to critics.
The sexy scene in question arises towards the mid-point of Vida’s series opener, after Lyn realizes her on-again, off-again boyfriend Johnny (Carlos Miranda) has seemingly moved on for good. The major signal is that Johnny shows up to Lyn’s mother’s funeral reception with Karla (Erika Soto), his fiancée, who is very, very pregnant. Though that choice should tell anyone not to attempt to seduce an ex, Lyn isn’t merely anyone. So, while standing at the secluded back exit of the Hernandez family bar, Lyn tearfully laments how sad she is that her mother Vidalia (Rose Portillo) is dead. There is one beat, and then, before you know it, Lyn is splayed out on the stairs with Johnny’s face between her legs. The camera holds on Lyn’s face to show just how much she’s enjoying herself, and it’s immediately clear who is in charge in this ill-advised relationship.
Johnny doesn’t even move towards penetrative sex, aka the kind of sex that will likely get him off, until Lyn has already finished from oral sex alone.
“You know what, that’s amazing because obviously when I see a sex scene I just see myself there and I’m like, ‘Oh, God. Just close your eyes.’ But when you think about it that way, it’s so empowering,” Lyn’s portrayer Melissa Barrera told Refinery29 over the phone of scene, which is focused almost solely on female pleasure. “It is true women are usually the ones going down on the guy. They’re usually the ones getting naked real fast.”
With just a few seconds of Vida, created by Latinx playwright Tanya Saracho, the dramedy has already alerted viewers this is going to be a series shown from a distinctly pro-woman perspective. “Tanya did a really good job of trying to do a role reversal with Lyn and Johnny because … this is a show about women who who have agency and are comfortable with their sexuality. It’s also [a place where] they’re calling the shots. It’s something we regularly don’t see on TV, and we should,” Barrera added.
It was a whole thing to see how descarada Lyn would be. How shameless she could be at her mother’s funeral
Tanya Saracho echoes her star's viewpoint, saying of Vida’s sexual introduction, “It’s about power, right? And servicing. This is very much a female gaze show,” the writer, who filled the Vida writers room with mostly queer, completely Latinx scribes, said to Refinery29. “It’s the first sexual act of what the show is going to be. Who’s the power top?”
The answer is, of course, Lyn. Or, as Melissa Barrera put it, “She totally has Johnny in the palm of her hands, and she knows it.”
A big part of this display of sexual and romantic dominance comes down to the dress Lyn is wearing during the encounter: a musical festival-ready floral gown with a massive Angelina Jolie-esque slit up the side. While Saracho calls the dress the “least Coachella thing” in Lyn’s closet, it would still look extremely at home next to a hipster ferris wheel in the California dessert. That’s the point: it’s an almost comically inappropriate outfit to wear to bury your own mother. But, on the other hand, it's an extremely appropriate ensemble for easy access to oral sex.
“It was a week of fittings to find The Dress that was going to be the funeral dress. Yes, because of that sex scene, but also because, what would Lyn wear to a funeral? And how revealing do you want [it to be]?” Barrera said of her premiere episode ensemble. “Some [options] were really short. Some had huge cleavage. Some were not even black. It was a whole thing to see how descarada Lyn would be. How shameless she could be at her mother’s funeral.”
“Shameless” will come to be a defining characteristic of Lyn’s upcoming arc, now that she has already had public sex with an engaged soon-to-be-father behind her mom’s wake. As you have likely already guessed, or noticed in Vida’s season 1 preview, Lyn’s sexual conquest of Johnny isn’t even close to over, despite the baby on the way and the fiancée in the way. That’s why Barrera is prepared for her character to polarize viewers. “I hope that women can see themselves in that [unruly] part of Lyn, and if you want to root for her, then amazing, and if you want to hate, then that’s amazing, too,” she admitted. “Because when you hate someone you’re really just hating the part of them that reminds you of yourself, you know?”
So before you get too judgy about Lyn’s sex life, try to simply enjoy the ride — you know she will, after all.
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